The time has come again for the bittersweet season that is the end of the academic year. Though the sweet smell of summer is just around the corner, it comes with the added workload of final activities, projects, and exams. The increase in tasks to be completed can cause an increase in stress, especially at the end of a trying year that students are eager to finish. To prevent students from becoming overwhelmed and burnt out, teachers and school leaders must find ways to continue to engage students. Here are five ways to encourage students to finish strong through self-care and motivational techniques.

#1: Morning Mindfulness

Practicing mindfulness has been trending over the past couple of years. Mindfulness is the ability to be keenly present at the moment and is proven to tie to increased relaxation, regulation of emotions, and stress reduction. Mindfulness does not have to be a 30-minute meditation; it can be practiced through simple exercises in one’s daily life. Whether in-person, hybrid, or online, mindfulness is a beneficial practice that can be implemented at all grade levels to help students recenter without worrying about the past or future. Like any physical exercise, the more it is practiced the stronger one becomes. Starting the day with 5-10 minutes of mindfulness can set a positive trajectory for the rest of the day. Some mindful activities to try with students include deep breathing, journaling gratitude, centering exercising, or observing one’s thoughts. No matter the exercise or the age, it’s important to create the time and space for students to be present at the moment and rid themselves of stressful thoughts. 

#2: Find Motivational Triggers

Teachers are constantly reminding students to embrace their individuality; however, students are often treated the same when it comes to providing incentives. Each student has his or her unique point of motivation. Some students might be motivated by the nearing summer break, the physical reward of an ‘A’, or positive recognition from teachers or parents. Others might be intrinsically motivated by the challenge or joy that learning provides. Whatever it may be, teachers must help students identify the motivation to work. It provides teachers clarity and helps them better address and reward students based on their drive. More importantly, it reminds students of their “why.” Finishing the school year strong is an uphill battle if students don’t recognize their purpose in going to school. Reminding students of the “why” while in the final stretch is beneficial because it can provide the extra boost of inspiration students need to complete their work to the best of their abilities. 

#3: Model Self-Care

Educators are, without a doubt, some of the most important members of society. It’s not because they teach students how to analyze pieces of literature or find the hypotenuse of a triangle; rather, teachers are important because of their ability to uplift students and serve as role models. Modeling self-care is no exception. Teachers can initiate discussion about self-care by talking to students about how teachers practice self-care and what specific activities they do to bring them a sense of peace and joy. It can include listening to music, going on a walk, exploring the outdoors, doing their favorite hobby, or exercising. Having a peaceful demeanor in the classroom is another subtle way for teachers to show students that they are taking care of themselves, which models how to behave inside and outside the classroom.

#4: Encourage Balance

As teachers discuss with their class practices that help ground them, it is important to encourage students to identify practices or hobbies that may bring them a sense of peace and joy. Furthermore, helping students establish ways to intentionally practice these actions can help them obtain a good balance between study time and personal time. Maintaining balance is crucial, especially at the end of the year. If students invest too much time studying, they will likely overwhelm themselves. Likewise, if they experience too much personal time because they may not achieve high levels of academic success. Encourage students to create a schedule and stick to it so they learn to intentionally take time to care for their mental health. Lastly, encourage simple de-stressing techniques such as deep breathing for students to turn to in moments of anxiety or stress. 

#5: Celebrate With Students 

This was an unquestionably difficult year for learning. Both teachers and students deserve to be recognized for their tremendous efforts and tenacity throughout the year, no matter what their learning environment looked like. While the traditional pizza and ice cream party may not be feasible this year, there are several COVID-safe alternatives teachers can do to celebrate their students’ hard work. Hosting an online awards ceremony and presenting superlatives based on personality is a fun way to recognize and engage students in the virtual environment. Consider holding a car parade where families can drive through the school parking lot or nearby neighborhood so students can be cheered on by their teachers from a social distance. If students are learning in person, teachers can bring their end-of-the-year parties outside and restrict food-sharing so students and teachers can interact in a COVID-friendly manner. Having an end-of-the-year celebration is the perfect way to create fun memories to start the summer. 

As students stride towards the finish line, it is the responsibility of teachers to support them. Teachers have worked all year to make sure they equip students with the tools to succeed academically. Now is the time to ensure students are also equipped with the tools for emotional growth. School leaders work tirelessly to ensure success for their students, and it is important to recognize and highlight their efforts. How? Schola helps school leaders showcase the mission, features, and achievements of their school to interested families! We encourage school leaders to add photos, videos, and information on their Schola Profile for families to see. Claim your school profile to finish this semester strong and start next fall even stronger by connecting with families, increasing engagement, and acing enrollment goals with Schola!